This week, Congressman Bill Owens asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to consider the removal of Social Security Numbers from Medicare identification cards. The concern was brought to Owens' attention at a March 23rd "Mobile Office Hours" event held in Croghan. Owens and his staff routinely hold these meetings at public offices throughout the region to offer Upstate New Yorkers who may not have time to travel to their local office the opportunity to meet with a representative of their Congressman's staff.
"In this day and age, it is more important than ever to ensure that seniors' identities are protected," Owens said. "They deserve peace of mind that they will not be a victim when collecting their Medicare benefits. I appreciate the residents of Croghan bringing this issue to the attention of my staff at a mobile office hours event, and look forward to hearing more common sense solutions to our problems in future meetings with constituents."
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 10 million Americans, or nearly five percent of the adult population, are victims of some form of identity theft each year. The FTC reports that this theft translates into more that $50 billion in reported losses annually.
To read the full letter Congressmen Owens sent to CMS this week, please see below:
# # #
April 11, 2011
Donald Berwick, M.D.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Room 445-G
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Dr. Berwick:
I am writing to express my concern with seniors' continued exposure to identity theft because of the use of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) on Medicare identification cards.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as many as 10 million Americans, or nearly five percent of the adult population, are victims of some form of identity theft each year. The FTC reports that this theft translates into more than $50 billion in reported losses annually.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has documented several areas where potential vulnerabilities exist in protecting the security of SSNs, including the display of SSNs on an estimated 42 million Medicare cards. While many health insurance companies now generate random ID numbers for use on identity cards, Medicare continues to put seniors at risk by using SSNs.
Although Medicare recommends that consumers leave their Medicare cards at home, this is not an adequate solution to the problem. Seniors have the right to carry their insurance cards without risking identity theft and should expect the same level of personal protection from the federal government as from private insurers.
Identity theft is a serious, costly crime that affects millions of seniors each year. I urge you to develop and implement a strategy to replace SSNs on Medicare cards with a unique ID number. Thank you for your attention to this important issue and I look forward to hearing from you.
Member of Congress